Protecting Your Intellectual Property

By • 6 years ago with 38 replies already

The internet is an amazing tool for enabling all kinds of creativity, and helps bring artists and their audiences together in new and exciting ways. However, as rewarding as working in the new digital landscape can be, it also requires creators to keep a closer eye on their creations to watch out for any infringement of their intellectual property. Let’s take a quick look at the basics of your rights and abilities as the creator of artwork and designs on the web.

What images can be used on Zazzle?

Before we talk about your rights, it’s important to acknowledge the rights of others! Any image or other content that you upload to Zazzle must be fully owned by you, part of the public domain (which is open for anyone to use), or something for which you have explicit permission for commercial use from the original creator/owner. A quick list of off-limits content would include: movies, TV shows, video games, brand names, sports teams, celebrities and nearly all images found via Google.

The general rule of thumb for public domain works is that this category covers most content created prior to 1923, but some pre-1923 works can still be held under copyright due to circumstances like family estate ownership. Always be sure to use entirely original content for your text and designs, and do your research to ensure you have explicit permission to use any older content that may be part of the public domain.

Who owns my images when I upload them to Zazzle?

The short answer: you do! When you upload your images to Zazzle, you grant us a license to display them on our site, sell them for you, and print them to send them out to your customers: that’s it! You are still the owner of your artwork, and can use it in any other way you see fit. You’re not giving us rights to your art but rather allowing us to show it off and bring it to life for you and your customer. You can find all of the details about how Zazzle uses your images and designs in our User Agreement and Designer License Agreement.

How can I protect my creations?

When you create something, you automatically are the copyright owner of that work. However, if you want to really go the extra mile in asserting your ownership, you can register you copyright via the United States Copyright Office. Should you come up with a great slogan, company/brand name or other unique word-based creation, you can also register for an official trademark through the United States Patent and Trademark Office. In your advanced store settings, you do have the option to enable a large patterned watermark over your Zazzle products, but we’ve found that the sales benefit of an attractive un-watermarked product image outweigh the amount of protection a watermark can provide.

What can I do if I find my work being used without permission?

If you discover that your work is being used without your permission elsewhere on the web, you have rights under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. By sending a DMCA infringement notice to the owner of the website where your work is being used inappropriately, the website owner is legally obligated to remove the content in question. To help give you an idea of the information required for a full DMCA notice, here is an example of the information that Zazzle requires should an intellectual property owner believe their work is being used without permission on Zazzle:

  • an electronic or physical signature of the person authorized to act on behalf of the owner of the copyright or other intellectual property interest
  • a description of the copyrighted work or other intellectual property that you claim has been infringed
  • a description of where the material that you claim is infringing is located on the Zazzle Site
  • your name, address, telephone number, and email address
  • a statement by you that you have a good faith belief that the disputed use is not authorized by the copyright or intellectual property owner or its agent or the law
  • a statement by you, made under penalty of perjury, that the information contained in your notice is accurate and that you are the copyright or intellectual property owner or authorized to act on the copyright or intellectual property owner’s behalf.

If you’re sending this information to a site other than Zazzle, input that site’s name where you see “Zazzle” above. Here are a few other tips when notifying website owners of infringement of your work:

  • Be as specific as possible. Include the direct URL of both where you found your work being used without permission, and where your original version with your ownership clearly stated can be found.
  • Send it to the right person. Do some research to find if the website has a copyright policy similar to ours with the proper contact information, or do a “whois” search to find out who owns the website.
  • Spell out what you’re requesting. This is usually the removal of the image or content.
  • Show as much proof as possible. If you can, include copyright or trademark registration numbers, proof of the date of creation, screenshots of the violation and your original work, and/or any other information that clearly shows that you are the originator of the image or content and it is being used without your permission.
  • Verify that you’re the owner. This is usually the statement that we ask for above, where you attest under penalty of perjury that all of the information in your notice is correct.

How can I find out if my work is being used without permission?

While there’s no foolproof way to know for sure that your work is being used without permission, there are some tricks you can use to keep an eye out. You can try reverse image search features such as TinEye or Google Images. You can actually drag and drop an image right into the Google Images search bar, and it will show you similar images from around the web. You can also use an image by searching for the same title, keywords or descriptions that you used to define your creation. If you do come across an infringement, keep track of all of the information about where, when and how you found it so you can follow up on any infringement claims you send.

While the internet can enable some unscrupulous behavior, overall it has allowed artists and creators of all backgrounds to have a voice and a platform to share their creativity with the world. The joys of building a community and and audience where your talents can shine – and even allow you to build a freer creative life – far outweigh the lows of encountering a few bad apples. The best way to not let those bad apples win is to keep on creating amazing, original work that’s all you!


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38 thoughts on “Protecting Your Intellectual Property”

    1. Glad to hear this was helpful! You can find this from the Settings tab in your store, where you can click on the Advanced Settings link.

      1. The Advanced Settings under my profile show how to customize the home page (hidden + visible sections) and list of my stores. I do not see an option for “watermark”. Can you please direct me?

        1. This option is found in the Advanced Settings area for your store (not your profile), and is marked with a gray box. Hope that helps!

  1. Nice start Liz:) Are we going to get the option of watermarks for smaller images? I’m now up to 290 images taken from Zazzle. I’d also like to point out that reverse image search doesn’t work for all sites – for the site in question, Amazon, you have to go to the site and manually search for each image.

    1. That’s a lot of products 😟 I’ve had my best selling design stolen and I’ve found it on several websites. There DEFINITELY needs to be a watermark on the “smaller” product image previews, cause they aren’t that small really. We need something to protect all the image views.

  2. Kind of touched on the surface of a very serious and complex subject. IPR is abused all over the world. Especially China! DMCA notices tend to be ignored in countries such as China, India and Russia, who have the biggest counterfeiting rackets in the world. That said, the DMCA laws are totally ineffective to small time artists. The laws were changed to protect big business against the content its users uploaded, but now it back fires. Your article states it must be owned by you, however many a talentless free loader feels that anything on the web is fair game to make a buck out of these days. They don’t even create some works. Literally steal an sell. I’ve even seen TM works, licensed artworks, registered items, you name it, up for sale. The people doing it hide behind the useful anonymity of the Internet and terms of use. PD and CC images are being misused as well to tackle the lack of creativity in a majority of free loaders desire for quick money.
    Moms watermarks do nothing, and even Digimarc is somewhat ineffective, due to JavaScript loop holes that can be used to avoid robot searches on sites.
    The only way to stop artwork being stolen, as one person told me, is not to put it online. This is a complex conversation bigger than just a comment. But I’ve had first hand experience of it all.

  3. It would be nice if Zazzle policed its own website for copyright infringement. I had my designs copied almost immediately by other store owners on Zazzle. When I brought this to Zazzle’s attention, they did nothing. They were quick, however, to take down several items I posted, even though they were not infringement, but merely used key words that made Zazzle nervous about infringement.

    1. We have an entire team devoted to this task – you can use the “Report this product” link on any product page to bring potential infringement to our attention and we’ll be happy to investigate. You can also use the information in this post to send us an official DMCA notice with your statement under penalty of perjury that you believe your work is being infringed upon.

      Likewise, if we receive an official DMCA notice from an intellectual property holder, we are legally obligated to remove the products in question. If you receive a removal notice from us, you can reply directly to that email for more information about why the product was removed.

  4. Thanks Liz;
    I recently had a logo removed from Zazzle with no explanation as to why. I created this in 2011 and published it elsewhere before recently publishing it on Zazzle. When I inquired if the removal was triggered by a tag I used, Again I never heard a response other than it’s Zazzle right to remove the items in question.
    Has Zazzle considered forwarding the said complaint to the artist in question so we can weed out people attempting to limit the competition by claiming rights to works they don’t truly own? If not for a discovery as to what is triggering the rejection?

    1. Hi Richard,

      When we receive DMCA notices as described in this post, we’re legally obligated to remove the products in question. If you ever receive a removal notice from us, you can reply directly to that email and our Content Management team will provide you with more information.


        1. DMCA notices are usually sent to the company hosting the potentially infringing content, or directly to the site owner. You can also find information on how to send a counter claim where we posted how to send a DMCA to us (the help article linked in this post). Thanks!

          1. How can anyone send a counter claim if they don’t receive the original takedown? You should be forwarding the relevant parts of original takedown to the ‘infringer’. This is really not helpful in the case of false claims. The process is: you receive a DMCA takedown, you forward the relevant to the “infringer” and they can file a counter claim. This part is really not up to you, Zazzle, it’s between the copyright holder and the infringer.

          2. We’re legally obligated to comply with DMCA requests, and we send removal notices when a product is removed due to a DMCA request. At that time, the owner of the removed product can submit a counter claim to us to dispute the removal.

  5. I use Digimarc to protect my digital images online. They can also be tracked if they are used elsewhere and the watermark is hidden so it’s not obtrusive and cannot be removed, even if the image is altered, resized/cropped, saved as a different format and more. It’s not a free service, but if you value your work not being stolen and having the ability to find out where they have been used then it’s worth it.

  6. In the art licensing group I’m a member of on FB, there’s a case of infringement posted at least once a month. It’s always such a hassle for the artist. This post really helps artists who are victims of infringement. Thanks for posting!

  7. Thank you, for this information.
    Am slightly confused of all of it. Have not been able to be on as much. But thanks.

  8. This is a great article Liz and very timely. I am finding that there are websites out there that take work straight from Zazzle, redbubble and of course Google is great about doing this. Is there any way you can add the zazzle watermark to all images even the ones that appear on the product page? That would help increase zazzle’s sales and keep people from stealing these images.

    1. I agree – I’d like to see a watermark applied to all online images. I’ve had images “lifted” from my Zazzle site and the amount of time it takes to chase around after stolen images on the internet is discouraging. Watermarked images may not solve all our problems but it would be a step forward.

  9. Thank you for providing the correct forms to use should I need them. You made the job of defending my property rights much easier.

  10. Good morning happy, okay?
    I am Brazilian and here our laws say that if I edit an image, that is, if I make any interference in a an image that is not mine, it will leave the other person.
    If I copy a text writer and change in this text a word, this text is no longer the original writer.
    On page editing images is read in this way? Living in Brazil and working on the page, follow the North American or Brazilian law?
    Thank you for your attention,

    1. Hi there,

      As we are a US company, we abide by US laws and do not accept content that is not 100% owned by you or for which you have explicit permission for commercial use. As always, we encourage all of our Designers to submit only entirely original content to avoid the risk of intellectual property infringement.


  11. Good article, I’m glad this subject is being addressed, as I have had to report over 80 DMCA complaints on thieves stealing my artwork, mostly on Amazon. It is time consuming, frustrating and tiring, but must be done. We need to fight these thieves full force and tell each other whenever possible, when we recognize another Zazzle store owner’s artwork being stolen on any website. It is a large job, we need as much help as we can get.

  12. have been thinking for a while about many infringers happening online like POD sites. Those sites seem to take no really responsible. It makes me think why don’t they create serious consequence for those image thieves than just removing the image or the store owner. Why don’t they warn them with compensate anytime anyone someone upload image to insure the image belong to them or have permission to use. It is strange this is going on again and again and they are just saying the same again and again instead of improving it. That is just my thought.

    1. We have an entire team dedicated to managing and reviewing the content upload to our site, and we require every Designer to certify that they have full rights to publish their content on our site. We do certainly send warnings to Designers who are in violation of our User Agreement and Designer License Agreement. If you come across any product on our site that you believe to be infringing, please use the “Report this product” link to bring it to our attention.

  13. Great discussion of this complex and seemingly always evolving topic. It’s unfortunate (but logical) that the Internet, which allows all kinds of artists previously unheard of amounts of free exposure, also exposes them to those who would take advantage of it. And that in turn forces artists to spend time and emotional energy on being hyper-vigilant rather than on being creative. We’re all becoming our own lawyers.

  14. I submitted a forum post not too long ago asking for watermarks on the actual product page itself as well- I know not all designers would like it, but it could be optional just like it is now in the settings. I have had tons of work stolen on Amazon over the past few months usually repeatedly by the same Amazon seller that just tries again and again. I have to check every day now to make sure they aren’t stealing things. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE if someone could put the option to add the watermark on the original product page, not just the enlarged image- this would be 100% effective for everybody (if it’s optional). It seems a lot of others agree on here- it would be a great thing and relief to a lot of designers if Zazzle would really work on this. I know it has been looked into, but if there was some action taken on this, please help protect designers. I enjoy this company but it is a headache to have to track people down constantly. If there was a watermark, there would be no question as to where the stolen image came from when it comes to infringement claim forms. And it would help ban illegal sellers from Amazon and other companies.

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